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How Can We Experience Hardship Without Resorting to Grumbling?

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Pastor Charles Spurgeon once eloquently stated, “The trees bow in the wind, and so must we. Every time the sheep bleats it loses a mouthful, and every time we complain we miss a blessing. Grumbling is a bad trade, and yields no profit, but patience has a golden hand. Our evils will soon be over.”

What a beautiful truth, yet so easily forgotten.

Seared into my mind is a season of my life that, looking back, was marked by two things: emotions and complaining. There was a lot going on, to say the least, which caused me to circulate almost constantly through the emotions of stress, anxiety, depressive episodes, and other such feelings.

And to accompany my grievances was an unhealthy dose of grumbling. Really, the only thing that snapped me out of the pessimism was a timely and poignant sermon on how grumbling dishonors God. Or as Spurgeon expressed, how complaining blinds us to our many blessings.

We’re immeasurably blessed, whether we realize it or not. How do I know that? First, if you have a relationship with the Lord Almighty and an inheritance in heaven, you’re blessed. But also, if you have friends, family, a job, a roof over your head, a bed to sleep on, food to eat, or the ability to walk, see, hear, or taste — well, you’re blessed!

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This merely scratches the surface. And yet, how much of this do we take for granted? After all, that’s what complaining does. It disregards what we have and puts a spotlight on what we don’t want.

The reality is, it’s human nature to experience emotions. So, in general, I would encourage the church to seek wisdom in what it looks like to regulate emotions and increasingly experience them in a manner glorifying to God. But this, then, leaves the question: If grumbling dishonors God, what are we to make of troubling emotions and circumstances?

Spurgeon, whom I’ve quoted, was famously known as “the prince of preachers.” Read any of his work, and it’s likely you’ll be instantly edified. This is a man who deeply loved the Lord and dedicated his entire life to serving the Kingdom by sharing the truth unapologetically, yet quite lovingly, and in a digestible fashion.

But what does not immediately come to the surface when recalling his work or his life is the fact that he severely struggled with depression. And this same truth applies to the puritan, John Owen, another church figure from the past well-known for his devotion to God. A man who buried all eleven of his children and one of his wives, he, too, fought depression.

Consider the number of stories in the Bible where someone is thrown into prison for their faith, hated by their family, or slandered by the public. It’s hard to narrow it down. Think of the many martyrs throughout church history who spent nearly their entire lives wondering if they were to live another day.

Even today, there are countless bold believers proclaiming Truth in a gender-confused, anti-life, anti-family, sin-centric society. And yet, they are not spared from intense ridicule, hatred, and threats.

And humor me for one more set of examples as we acknowledge those who can barely provide for themselves or their families. The people living in the streets, running from abuse, fighting battles of addiction, or contemplating taking their lives. My point is, beloved, this life is hard.

The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4, “We are afflicted in every way.” We’re “perplexed” and “struck down.” We are surrounded by sin and the schemes of the enemy, so really, it’s no wonder life is often strenuous.

But when we recall figures such as Spurgeon, Owen, various martyrs, and such, what do you notice? Hopefully, you notice that these people are not known and defined by their struggles or their battles with depression. No, they are known for the faith in Christ.

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These people are marked by their worship, praise, and reverence. They’re known as witnesses to the gospel with lives fixed on things above. That’s what they’re most remembered for, and undoubtably, it’s what allowed them to endure any and everything they experienced in this commonly dreary life.

But can you see the picture these puzzle pieces are forming? It’s possible to live with joy in a gruesome world, with dreary days and sleepless nights. Ultimately, it’s possible to experience negative emotions and do so without protest.

Why? Because we’re never asked to do so without having a hope that it’s worth it. We’re never forced to endure without a promise of reward. We’re never, ever going to be asked to guide ourselves through this confusing, frustrating, and wearisome life. We have a Rock; a Father; a Friend; a God — He is on our side.

Experience emotions. Ecclesiastes 3:4 states there’s “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” There’s no sense in suppressing the emotions we will inevitably experience. Not to mention that suppressing them does not allow us to work through them. But I urge: Please do not allow yourself to easily fall in the fit of complaint and forget that you have salvation through Christ, and eternal life around the corner.

When the weight of the world becomes too much, Paul said, “Do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).

Perhaps there’s no better way of concluding than to recall the wise words of Pastor Jonathan Leeman:

“Christianity only makes sense if you have reached the end of yourself. A new beginning appeals only to the person who has reached the end of him or herself and has found the old self wanting. You’ve discovered that you cannot get control of your sin, your addiction, your pattern of ruining relationships, your loneliness, your depression, your weakness, your guilt and shame, your despair in yourself and perhaps your despair with the world around you. And it’s into all this brokenness and hurt and death and addiction and guilt that a new Adam steps. A light, stepping into a pervasive darkness, bringing forgiveness and healing. Shoots of green in a charred wasteland. Volcanic ash.

“Let me put it like this: Consider for a second the person … who wonders if life’s even worth living. They wonder if they should end it. Christianity is for the person precisely at this point. It offers a new big bang, a new creation. It says, ‘A new universe here, a new Adam here, for you, if you would reach out and hold on to Him.’ … All the Bible, the revealed Word of God, points to Him. … And if you’re discouraged or despairing, where do you think you should place your attention if not to Him?”

This article appeared originally on The Washington Stand.

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The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview.




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